Our world changed in so many ways, it’s not surprising the ski experience will be different, too. As resorts — and entire states — grapple with the challenges of keeping guests and staff safe, a variety of plans emerge. Here are a few things families can expect.
- Masks will be required in all indoor spaces as well as on lifts and lines. Many resorts are making these mandatory for children, while others include only children 11 or older.
- Chairlifts and gondolas will be operated at lower capacity to allow for distancing. Families can ride together, but strangers will be asked not to share lifts except on six-packs, where singles can sit at opposite ends. To make up for the reduced capacity, some lifts may be operated at higher speed, which can make loading and offloading young children more difficult.
- Base lodge access will be severely reduced, if not closed entirely. Most resorts will not allow bags or gear to be left in the lodge and even bag-check and locker areas may be closed. This means booting up in the car and walking to the base in ski boots, both of which can be especially difficult with children.
- Facilities will be reduced, including food service, so be prepared to B.Y.O. food and drinks to leave in the car. Many resorts suggest to “think of your car as your base lodge.” Others are adding outdoor take-out windows, and most eliminate all but grab-and-go menu options. Some, including Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire and Stratton Mountain in Vermont, added more outside seating; Pat’s Peak in New Hampshire surrounded its new outdoor tables with wind shields and terrace heaters.
- Many mountains require online reservations and are not offering on-site ticket sales, including all the Vail Resorts, such as Okemo, Stowe and Mount Snow in Vermont, and Sunapee, Wildcat, Attitash and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire. In addition, these resorts will accept only debit or credit cards for all resort services, with no cash sales.
- Ski lessons may only be offered to family groups or individuals, with no group lessons. Many resorts are closing childcare centers and programs for young children. And unless you are staying in the area, it will be difficult for parents to take turns staying indoors with a non-skiing child. Rentals will likely require timed reservations.
- Après-ski activities of all kinds are either banned or severely restricted, with an emphasis on take-out dining. Teen clubs and game rooms will be closed nearly everywhere.
All this makes looking for slope-side condos and resort-affiliated hotels especially attractive for families. Ski-in-ski-out resorts, such as Jackson Gore Inn at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain, allow everyone to boot up “at home” and return there to eat lunch and dinner. Okemo and other resorts offer free shuttles between the base and lodging.
SkiNewHampshire sums up the most important message for skiers this winter, “Know before you go.” It is vital to stay informed by visiting the resort’s website to be sure you know the latest measures and any travel restrictions states may be imposing.
The ski industry is determined to keep mountains open to skiers and safe for everyone this winter. Although many things have changed, the experience of flying down a mountain on a blue-bird day will not — and skiing in the great outdoors is one of the healthiest pastimes for your whole family in this unusual winter.
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